Being part of the challenge to develop a virtual prototyping solution that allows architects to preview their projects and choices or to choose a unique coating for a building was a great experience. These virtual prototypes, which power our Glass Visualiser in the AGC Glass Configurator and the Coating on Demand Service, combine everything we strive for: the ability to offer our customers unique and customised solutions. I am passionate about the technical and engineering side of this project, and I am convinced that our underlying solutions will help us address many customer challenges.
Thomas Biquet is Head of Digitalisation at the AGC Technovation Centre. He has more than 10 years of experience at AGC Glass Europe’s R&D Centre in optical software development, services related to virtual prototyping, such as coating on demand, and other digital services. Thomas Biquet holds a degree in electromechanical engineering from the University of Liège in Belgium.
It all started with our Glass Configurator, an online tool that helps architects and engineers configure and calculate the optimal glazing solution for their building project. This tool is widely used and helps the user find the best glazing solution that matches the requested performance levels in various criteria. But once a certain type of glazing with a certain composition has been chosen, how do you display your choice on a screen with images that are as close to reality as possible? This challenge was tackled by a multidisciplinary team at our AGC Technovation Centre in Gosselies, Belgium.
“Apart from cost, architects choose glass based on its expected functions (thermal/acoustic insulation, solar protection, safety, etc.) and its appearance (reflection, tint)”, explains Thomas Biquet. “However, appearance is still very difficult to gauge. Once installed under real-life conditions, from a visual point of view the glass covering a tower designed by an architect may appear quite different to what he or she saw with the samples.” But, at that point it is too late to go back and too late to avoid disappointment. “Today, architects can define the type of glass they are looking for very precisely based on values such as light transmission, thermal insulation, solar factor, etc.”, continues Thomas Biquet, “but again, the visual appearance cannot be determined based on objective numerical values”, which is why it is important to provide such data objectively through realistic virtual prototypes.
It took three years to develop this tool. “We started with an image rendering engine used in the audiovisual industry but the parameters used to describe the glass behaviour were not accurate enough”, comments Thomas. “We then used a more specialised rendering engine better suited to the glass industry that allows us to define all the technical characteristics of our products”.
This rendering software has now been fully integrated into the AGC Glass Configurator, allowing users to instantly see and compare the chosen configuration. This gives the architect all the necessary information, such as technical performance and previews of the actual appearance of the glass.
A realistic rendering program like this is a decisive asset since it enables any architect to visualise his or her project in a reliable manner. It constitutes the basis for our unique Coating on Demand service that allows architects to choose a unique coating for their project and receive an actual sample within just one day.
"The software can also be used to diagnose problems involving concentrated solar reflection. “An all-glass facade can focus solar energy on a precise spot to such an extent that it can melt the wing mirror of a car, as happened in London”, explains Thomas Biquet. “With our solution, we can carry out infrared extremely precise calculations that pinpoint any such potential issues.”